Don’t Be Afraid of the Dharma

A couple of my readers have commented less than enthusiastically on my blog’s name change from Mel’s Mouth to Melting-Pot Dharma. One explained that Mel’s Mouth seemed more approachable for a potential reader who’s not committed to an Eastern religion that uses the term Dharma.

I had been increasingly unhappy with the old blog name. My everyday persona is one with a heavy dose of blunt humor, and Mel’s Mouth works for that. I started using it for my weekly column  when I was a church president almost 20 years ago and have kept it since. But after I started serious daily blogging in early September this year, the words that flowed out of me, I thought, called for a more serious blog name, and along came Lama Surya Das with what I thought was the perfect phrase to adopt as a name.

Chinese Hanzi Penmanship Calligraphy "Buddha"
Chinese Hanzi Penmanship Calligraphy “Buddha”

I can see, though, that some names are scary to we Westerners. Lama Surya Das has an intimidating ring to it even though he grew up in Long Island with the name Jeffrey Miller and still sounds like one of the guys from Valley Stream. He says “breathe in, breathe out” with the cadence of a New York football coach. (That’s my old Mel’s Mouth humor coming out.)

“Dharma” is an interesting word. In Pali, which is probably the closest language we have to what the historical Buddha actually spoke, it’s “Dhamma,” but in the West we most often use the Sanskrit word, “Dharma.” It has so many meanings that one needs the context to know how it might be meant by any particular speaker or writer. In some Eastern religions, Dharma is simply the truth, the way things are. Two of its meanings in Buddhism are:

  • All of the teachings that have been attributed to the Buddha, or
  • The Eightfold Path — the route toward Enlightenment.

I’ve come to prefer “spiritual wholeness” to “Enlightenment” because many are scared away by the Zen stories that portray Enlightenment as similar to being struck by a thunderbolt. One moment you’re not enlightened and the next moment you are. I think we all hunger for spiritual wholeness, and for me that’s awakening to the oneness of all things. Most of us experience that in tiny moments of insight that enable us to glimpse it just long enough to understand that it’s there.

So by using Melting-Pot Dharma as my blog title, I mean that all of us — no matter what religious tradition we come from — seek spiritual wholeness, and I feel called to help others, as well as me, find the way. My blog post last night used only Christian imagery. This one speaks from a Buddhist perspective. But I try to write for all, so that this today makes sense to a Christian (or a Jew, or Hindu, or Muslim, or…) and last night’s makes sense to a Buddhist (or a Jew, or Hindu, or Muslim, or…).

The fictional Rinpoche in Roland Merullo’s wonderful trilogyBreakfast with Buddha, Lunch with Buddha and Dinner with Buddha — didn’t call himself a Buddhist. He was whatever you wanted him to be — Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, and so on.

The word’s religions are changing. A growing fundamentalism in many religions is a serious threat to the future of humankind. I believe it’s a greater threat than global climate change. But at the same time, or maybe in reaction, many of us hunger for a less dogmatic religious community.

I believe that we need religion, but we need a religion that unites rather than divides. We need a melting-pot dharma.

Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thank you for saying “humankind” instead of “mankind.” In my middle age, I’ve decided that “mankind” is a sexist term, so I thank you for being inclusive in your choice of words. Hopefully you have eased the fears of those readers who were concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

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